A Walnut Creek Art Show…Made from LEGO’s!

IMG_7796Everybody is familiar with the little multi-colored plastic bricks that we all used to build towers and spaceships out of. Well, New York artist Nathan Sawaya has taken LEGO creativity to a whole new level. He builds everything from life-size skulls to dresses out of LEGO’s.

If you visit the Bedford Gallery in Walnut Creek’s Lesher Center for the Arts through December 20th, you can see Sawaya’s exhibition “The Art of the Brick” and a collaboration with photographer Dean West called “In Pieces.”

The art looks truly amazing and impressive. Whether you go alone or take your kids, this is a fun way to spend a few hours in downtown Walnut Creek this holiday season.IMG_7830

On Tuesday, I visited the Bedford Gallery to see the exhibit myself. One that really caught my eye was “Dress,” which shows a woman’s red dress, made entirely out of LEGO’s, disintegrating into the wind. According to the placard next to the piece in the exhibit, the piece leaves it up to the viewer to decide who she is, why she is standing there, and what happens to the little red bricks of her dress floating in the wind.

Another cool exhibit is his multi-colored skulls which represent his rocky past with LEGO, which initially sent him a cease and desist letter for his work using the trademark.
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The artist’s ability to speak to the emotions of the viewer and human nature in general is what makes the artwork resonate with me. His intricate portrayals of human nature and the general struggles one faces in a lifetime is what draws us in. The ability to create these messages out of a children’s toy is what will keep me coming back.

Bedford Gallery will also display an exhibition of sculpture by Jud Bergeron during this time, which reflect the experiences of becoming a parent. To see all the exhibitions at Bedford Gallery, get more information here.

General admission for “The Art of Brick” is $7, youth (5-17) are $3 and children 4 and under are free. Also, First Tuesdays are free admission for everyone. This weekend, it’s free with an arts and crafts show dispersed throughout the Lesher Center. Go check it out! Here are some more photos of “The Art of the Brick” exhibit below:

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The Tax Benefits of Home Ownership

money in pocketMoney Management 101: Buying a home, especially in California, has its benefits from a tax perspective – buyers can deduct their mortgage interest and property taxes from their income after they purchase. For buyers in high tax brackets, these savings can amount to more than $1,000 per month in high-end markets.

Why is this benefit important? For payment-sensitive renters who are considering a first-time purchase and are nervous about their housing payment jumping from $2,500 in rent to $4,000 (for PITI = Principle, Interest, Taxes & Insurance), it may be enough to make them change their mind or scare them into being a renter for life.

What most people don’t realize or most lenders and realtors don’t emphasize (or bother pointing out at all), is that IRSbuyers can recognize their tax benefit right after purchasing by increasing their allowances or exemptions on their IRS W4 form and giving it to their HR contact. By increasing the number of exemptions – because now you own a home and can write off the interest – you don’t need to withhold as much money for the IRS. This allows the new home owner to maximize their take-home pay with each check and mitigate the pain that results from the increased home payment.

Buyers should consult with a CPA or tax planner to figure out their optimal number of exemptions. The idea is that on April 15th, you don’t pay any additional money or you don’t receive a refund from the IRS. If buyers are already claiming a handful of exemptions, then it is unlikely this benefit will give much in the form of extra income flowing into their paychecks.

Some information in this blog taken from JVM Lenders Daily Comments.

Escaping the Halloween Madness

DSC02920If you want a change of scenery this Halloween so you don’t have to be around to answer the door for all the ghosts and goblins trick-or-treating, consider Maui.

Last year, while it rained in Walnut Creek, I was enjoying warm sunshine while watching the World Series at the beach bar with many fellow Giants fans.

We also had a great time people-watching at the Lahaina parade! Lahaina is a small town about 15 minutes from Ka’anapali – it’s an oceanfront former fishing village across the channel (in which dolphins and whales tend to migrate!) from the island of Lanai.

People in costume start to congregate on the sidewalk to watch the parade, which has the mayor, a marching band and many more people dressed up.

And just like back home, kids get candy from people standing on the side of the street.DSC02901

Once the parade is over, you can grab dinner at one of the local restaurants – Kimo’s is always a favorite, especially as the sun sets over Lanai (note: reservations for dinner need to be made days in advance for a busy night like Halloween).

After dinner, you can meander the main street (which will be closed off to traffic) to people-watch.

The costumes range from G-rated to PG to the occasional R. Take a look at the pictures below!

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Another fun fact is that October and early November are off-season for Hawaii, so flights are reasonable. A direct, round trip ticket on Alaska Airlines between Oakland and Maui is only about $400. It’s a great time to visit and a great place to get away!

Halloweekened is Coming!

Fall is a great time of year. With the change in weather and light, I tend to cook more and want to snuggle up to a good book or movie. As the holiday season approaches, it’s fun to decorate your house with pumpkins and wreaths, but Halloween has always been my favorite.

I happen to live on a street that is flat and shaped like a horseshoe, so it’s a great place for kids to safely trick-or-treat. Many of my neighbors decorate their homes – some quite extensively! Our street gets about 300 trick-or-treaters on average.

Of course, one of the best parts of Halloween is seeing the costumes. Below I am sharing some of my favorite costumes from a few years ago (it rained last year).

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This year, with Halloween falling on a Saturday and fair weather predicted, I’m expecting record numbers! I’m hosting a few friends for chili and drinks, where we will hang out in the driveway around the fire pit and pass out candy. In our neighborhood, it isn’t uncommon to see parents walking their Disney princesses and superheroes around the neighborhood, pulling a red wagon with a six-pack stashed in the back for socializing with the neighbors.

On a related note, Daylight Savings Time ends with the hallowed eve this year, so remember to turn your clocks back before you go to bed.

Happy Halloween to all, and to all a spooky night! Stay tuned for tomorrow’s blog: what to do if you want to escape the neighborhood and find a fun getaway this Halloween…

Chili Cook-Off Results

On Saturday, October 10th, the Parkmead Community Association held their first Chili Cook-Off. Eight chili recipes were entered and the big crowd of tasters judged them while enjoying beer and cornbread.

Kids crafts and ping-pong also filled the area, and to ensure safety, Lee St. was blocked off for the event.

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First place in the cook-off went to Adam Neilkie for his classic pork and beef recipe. Yours truly took second place with Willie’s Chili, which is a traditional beef concoction with a secret added tang. Michael was awarded third place for his chili dish. These chili recipes and the rest were devoured within two hours!

The combination of food, drink and perfect weather made for a memorable afternoon. Neighbors of all ages came by to join in the fun, making it a true community event. Because of the success of our first Chili Cook-Off, this may become an annual affair; bring your chili next year to spend a day in the sun with your neighbors and to test your chili against the best!

Walnut Festival 2015

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On Saturday September 19th, the 78th annual Walnut Festival kicked off with the Twilight Parade, which wen through downtown Walnut Creek on Main Street.

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Following the parade, a carnival opens at Heather Farms Park, with over 30 rides and many other attractions. The 4 day event run from Thursday, September 24, through Sunday, the 27th.  This celebration of the arts will provide many hours of family fun, with kid zone, live music, beer garden, great food, and a showcase of local artists, and craftsmen

images-2The Walnut Festival has a long history in this city, dating back to 1911, which the first festival took place.  The original festival was a celebration of the grape harvest, and was called the Grape Festival.  Wine grapes were a major crop in the area until prohibition, when most of the grape vines were replaced with Walnut Trees, changing the event to the Walnut Festival in 1936._8469241

For more information about this fun festival click here.  Hope to see you there next year!

 

Making progress on the Newell Pathway!

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Per my earlier blog post on September 9th , we began work on the new Newell Ave. pathway on September 12, 2015.  After years of rain and wear, the pathway had become very eroded and dangerous.  The new pathway will allow the kids in the neighborhood, dog walkers, & pedestrians to walk to school without trudging through the potholes and mud or by-passing them by walking in the street.
To repair the pathway, the area had to be excavated with a rototiller, replaced with compacted decomposed granite, and sprayed with water.  We had many members of the community donate and volunteer their time to this project.  Thank you to all of those who came out to help.  Special recognition goes to Chris Hockett & Adam Nelkie who coordinated the effort with their knowledge, resources and sweat equity.  Chris’s company Cal Engineering & Geology, Inc., donated $200 to buy everyone lunch – thank you!
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Chris Hockett to the left in the yellow vest.  Myself & Richard West as volunteers, I primarily directed traffic and it was great hear all the positive comments from the drivers – stating they would like to help!
We have completed about one half of the pathway, but the project is not yet complete.  We still need more donations and volunteers to finish the part from Magnolia to Olympic and from the Freeway to mid-Newell.  To help, please contact parkmead@parkmead.org.
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And, remember, kids play and walk to school here, so please Drive Slowly!

Beautiful New Listing 144 Mt. Etna, Clayton

Life can be crazy sometimes!

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I met Sonya in January as she was getting relocated to CA from Oklahoma (can you say sticker shock), but she was very focused and bought a home in Clayton in March. As life happens, after 8 months at her new job, a previous employer contacted her as the VP was retiring and they could not think of anybody better to fill his shoes. They made an offer she could not refuse. I get a call to say I am moving, come list me.
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First Open House today from 12-4! This home is move in ready and beautifully staged by Cathy Lee. Priced at $525k: 1587 sq. ft. duet boasts 4 bedrooms, 2.5 baths, views of Mt. Diablo and Clayton schools.

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What do you think of the home?

 

Block/Pool Party ~ Parkmead Community Association

Join us Sunday 8/30  Noon – 3 pm for our annual block party.  

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Located at Dewing Park and featuring the acoustic music of Dave Andre of the Smoking J’s, request your favorite 70s – 80s – 90s songs, while taking a dip in the pool or enjoying our BBQ’d hot dogs and hamburgers.  For Parkmead Community Residents only, bring a dish to share, drink a beer, relax and enjoy the day!  Look forward to seeing you there!

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First Showing Open House 1-4 pm 712 Buena Vista

All the Bells & Whistles!  

Charming duet situated in Walnut Creek School District is now ready to show.  2 car garage, perfect size yard, walk to Bart, LarkeyPark  or quick access to 24/680 ~ what more could you want!  A picture is worth  1000 words, so here you go!

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